Location of Ellen Smith Craft's Dwelling behind Home of Dr. Robert & Eliza Smith Collins
In 1860 the population of Bibb County was 16,289. The 6,790 slaves and free persons of color were the backbone of "King Cotton." There were at least three slave depots (markets) on Poplar Street. Many slaves and freedman worked as skilled craftsman in construction, factory and railroad trades and as servants of wealthy Macon families. But most were laborers on nearby plantations. As the war progressed, Macon's factories, Confederate industries, and hospitals hired slaves and freedman to replace soldiers.
Macon gained world-wide notoriety with the escape of William (1824-1900) and Ellen Smith Craft (1826-1891) in 1848 a slave couple who eventually made their way to England to lobby for the abolition of slavery. Having a light complexion, Ellen successfully posed as a sickly male master traveling north accompanied by her servant (William).
Prior to the war, freedmen included Solomon Humphries (d. 1855), a cotton trader and merchant; Jeremiah Scarborough (d. 1883), a Central of Georgia Railroad foreman; and Rev. David Laney, carpenter and pastor of the "colored" Presbyterian Church, today known as Washington Avenue Presbyterian Church. Charley Benger (1795-1880) became fifer for the Macon Volunteers after his arrival in Macon in 1831, and was given a pension for his service.
William Sanders Scarborough, son of Jeremiah (1852-1926) mentioned above, became an educator, author of Latin and Greek texts, and President of Wilberforce University. Scarborough recalls life in Macon as an adolescent before , during, and after the war in his autobiography, American Journey from Slavery to Scholarship.
After the war, Rep. Jefferson Franklin Long (1852-1926), former slave and master tailor, was the first American of African descent to be elected from Georgia to the U.S. Congress and the very first to speak from the floor.
Lucy Craft Laney (1854-1933), the daughter of Rev. Laney above, was a renowned educator and founder of the Haines Institute, a large school for children in Augusta, GA.
Rev. Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) was a freedman who traveled as a Methodist evangelist prior to the war. During the war, Turner volunteered and became the first American of African ancestry to be appointed a chaplain in the U.S. Army. After the war, he came to Macon to found AME churches and the Republican Party of Georgia. Turner was elected a state representative from Macon.
The children of area plantation owner Michael Healy and mulatto wife Mary Eliza were sent north to be educated before the war. Patrick Healy (1830-1910) earned his PhD, attained priesthood, and became president of Georgetown University. James Healy (1834-1900) became the first American of African ancestry to be appointed a bishop in the U.S. Captain Michael Healy (1838-1904) served as a defacto representative of the U.S. along the 20,000-mile coastline of recently acquired Alaska. Eliza Healy (1846-1918) became the first American of African ancestry to become Mother Superior, administering both a woman's school and a convent.